In recent years, several U.S. cities have launched campaigns to lure gay and lesbian tourists to their towns, including a few in the Midwest. Minneapolis has one, Chicago has one-- even Bloomington, Ind. Bloomington? Yes, Bloomington. In Indiana. Wants gay folks. We get that reaction a lot," says Rob DeCleene of Bloomington's Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It works in our favor. We've received a lot of publicity because of that." Indeed, in a state often tagged for its former Ku Klux Klan prominence, now this little 'burg in the Indiana foothills gets write-ups like this, from the July-August 2005 issue of Out Traveler, a gay tourism magazine: "Whether you're gay, straight or somewhere in between, Bloomington offers something rarely found in this country: a small town with a bold history of openness and acceptance."
What may come as a surprise to even many Hoosiers is a statistic cited in the article which ranks Bloomington as the nation's fifth largest per capita population of same-sex couples behind San Francisco, Sante Fe, Portland and Miami-Ft. Lauderdale.
The article describes notable events in the city's "gay history", including the addition of "sexual orientation" to the city's human rights code in the 1990s, the city played host to Sexual Minority Youth in the Heartland in 2002 and 2004, and it hosts an annual gay film festival and gay pride celebration. And of course, Bloomington has four gay bars.
The story, on a darker note, cites several hate crime incidents in recent years directed at Bloomington's GLBT community. "That's just smalltown Indiana," Helen Harrell says of the occasional incident. "You don't want to get rid of all that. Diversity goes both ways."